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Government Warns Pharma Firms Against ‘Bribing’ Doctors

The Centre has warned pharmaceutical companies against bribing doctors after receiving a complaint that companies arrange hotels, accommodation in five-star hotels and local sightseeing as part of conferences conducted by doctors.

In an official communication issued on February 4, the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) sent out a warning to the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association (IDMA), the Bulk Drug Manufacturers’ Association (BDMA), the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) and the Federation of Pharma Entrepreneurs, which more or less cover all companies in the pharma industry.

“The department has received a grievance alleging that pharma companies arrange hotels, accommodations in five star hotels, local sightseeing and so on in conferences conducted by doctors. A similar Annual National Conference of Indian Psychiatric Society 2020 will be conducted in Kolkata and in 2021 in Vishakhapatnam,” states the DoP communication.

It further says: “Pharma associations are requested to make sure that the pharma companies adhere to the provisions of the Uniform Code for Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) and no unethical promotion of pharma products is done during such conferences.”

‘A toothless move’

Experts have called this move rather ‘toothless.’ “Rather than taking steps to institute a statutory regulation on unethical marketing and promotion, the DoP is still requesting companies to abide by a toothless, unenforceable UCPMP. Given that all stakeholders like various industry associations, doctors’ bodies, civil society and patient groups are in agreement about bringing in a regulation, we cannot understand why the DoP is refusing to do so,” said Malini Aisola, co-convenor of the All India Drug Action Network.

Aisola said that the DoP should immediately implement a mandatory mechanism for company disclosure of payments towards doctors and professional bodies, including via third parties. “The disclousers, which should be made at intervals and put in the public domain, should include the amount spent, individual or entity to which the payment was made, and the reason for the payment, including any services rendered,” Aisola said.-Business Line